How Not To Despair At Many Beings To Save

As featured in October 2018 issue of For You Information (佛友资讯)


– 金刚经

If to make this statement,
‘I will deliver to Nirvāṇa immeasurable sentient beings’,
thus is one not named a Bodhisattva.

– Vajra [Diamond] Sūtra
(Śākyamuni Buddha)


Within the Prajñā Sūtra, was mention of a Bodhisattva, whom after spending many years struggling to follow the Bodhisattva path, told the Buddha that once he thinks of how realising full awakening needs such a long time, in addition to there being countless sentient beings who have yet to obtain liberation, he would feel discouraged.

The Buddha spoke of a parable in reply, asking him to imagine a mother who dreamt of her only child being swept away by rapids in a river. Although she was completely powerless at first, yet, amidst her painful suffering and desperation, she was willing to do anything to save her child, regardless of her own safety, even willing to sacrifice her own life.

That much time, with much mental and physical efforts are needed to save her child are completely not minded or considered at all. Due to the strength of her firmness and focused determination, she finally managed to save her child. Later, when she awoke, she realised that for ‘saving her child’, all her endured painful suffering, all her extremely great strife, and all her time spent did not truly exist before. Even her thought of having ‘saved the child’ is just an illusion.


[1] While it is relatively easier to give rise to Bodhicitta, this noblest aspiration to guide one and all to Buddhahood, it is much harder to sustain it for indefinite time, to put it into practice without thinking of giving up.

[2] While the Buddha spoke of how a Bodhisattva is likened as a loving mother, and how each sentient being is likened as an only child of the Bodhisattva, every Buddha, being ‘perfect Bodhisattvas’ with perfect Bodhicitta, already see each and every non-Buddha (i.e. sentient being) as an only child, all equally needing to be delivered to Buddhahood.

[3] A beginner Bodhisattva is initially powerless to truly save even one being, beginning with oneself, or not as skilfully effective as wished. However, if Bodhicitta is remembered and not given up, like how a truly loving mother will never abandon her lost child in danger, there will be unrelenting will and action to do what is necessary to save the child.

[4] Even the need for great personal efforts, with much suffering and dangers to be faced life after life will be disregarded by increasingly great Bodhisattvas. Of course, training Bodhisattvas will be ever more skilled, and thus ever more safe, able to help more beings with more ease.

[5] True awakening is realisation that there are no ‘saviours’, no ‘many beings’ (to be) saved and no ‘saving’ – in the sense that just as the ‘saviours’ and the ‘saved’ are but changing aggregates of mind and matter with no enduring ‘self’, the process of ‘saving’ and ‘being saved’ are also empty of fixed characteristics or substance. Yet, there must still be saving, to guide more to realise such Prajñā Pāramitā (Perfection Of Wisdom), which is to attain true salvation.

[6] What we need to have is the mother’s selfless attitude and pure motivation, as expanded to see each being to be like our only child. This is key for ongoing diligence that leads to success on the Bodhisattva path to Buddhahood. The Pure Land path offers the swiftest and easiest way to give rise to such perfect Bodhicitta for all beings, as all beings can be clearly and equanimously perceived in Pure Land, as having been our past children (and mothers) in our many interconnected past lives. Bodhisattvas there will also be able to ride upon the blessings of Amitābha Buddha to train for realising Prajñā Pāramitā perfectly, and to utilise great supernormal powers to most efficiently facilitate deliverance of many.


– 金刚经

Thus delivering to Nirvāṇa
immeasurable, innumerable and boundless sentient beings,
in reality, no sentient beings attained deliverance to Nirvāṇa.

– Vajra [Diamond] Sūtra
(Śākyamuni Buddha)

Related Articles:

How Everyone Is Every Buddha’s Only ‘Child’

Story In Chinese (translated as above)

‘《般若经》里提到,有位菩萨经过多年挣扎着遵循菩萨道之后,他告诉佛说,他一想到获得证悟要花上这么久的时间,加上无数的众生都还未获得解脱,他就很气馁。佛陀以一个比喻回答了他:想象一个母亲梦见自己的独子被湍急的河流冲走。她完全无能为力,然而,在痛苦绝望中,她愿意做任何事情来救这孩子,不顾自己的安危,甚至愿意牺牲自己的性命。要花多长的时间来救这孩子,完全不是她在意的问题;要花多少心力来救他,也完全不是她的考量。由于坚定的力量和专一的决心,她终于把孩子从河里拉上来。然后,她醒过来了。她为了救这小孩所承受的一切痛苦、所付出的极大努力,以及她所投注的时间,都不曾存在过;甚至连她救了孩子性命的想法,也只是个幻相。’ – 宗萨仁波切

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